Sons and Lovers is a well-made and conscientious adaptation of D. H. Lawrence’s famed novel, smoothly directed by Jack Cardiff and superbly acted by a notable cast.
Gavin Lambert and T. E. B. Clarke collaborated in producing a literate screenplay, though not entirely recapturing the atmosphere of the Nottinghamshire mining village so vividly described in the original. Also there is a tendency to portray the mother as an overly selfish, possessive and nagging woman. Even Wendy Hiller’s flawless performance cannot make her a sympathetic character.
Many of the exteriors were filmed on location outside Nottingham, and their authenticity is a plus factor. Against the background of the grimy mining village is unfolded the story of a miner’s son with promising artistic talents who is caught up in continual conflict between his forthright father and possessive mother. He sacrifices a chance to study art in London, gives up the local farm girl he loves, and eventually becomes entangled with a married woman separated from her husband.
Easily the outstanding feature of the production is the powerful performance by Trevor Howard, as the miner. He gives a moving and wholly believable study of a man equally capable of tenderness as he is of being tough. He looks the character, too. Dean Stockwell puts up a good showing as the son, and makes a valiant try to cope with the accent.
1960: Best B&W Cinematography.
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Trevor Howard), Supp. Actress (Mary Ure), Adapted Screenplay, B&W Art Direction